For the second time since 2003, all 16 at-large City Council incumbents are running for re-election.* In four races — Wards 2, 3, 5, and 6 — there is a challenger or two. Of the eight incumbents, who’s at the most risk?
While past performance is no guarantee of future results, review of election results back to 2001 reveals two broad trends regarding contested two-incumbent races:
- Challengers do knock off incumbents
- The higher incumbent vote-getter from the prior election never loses their seat
Since 2003, there have been 19 at-large races with two incumbent candidates and a challenger or two. Challengers have prevailed in five races (26%).** Coincidentally, four of the five prevailing challengers and one of the displaced incumbents are running this year.
In none of the 19 at-large races with two incumbents and a challenger or challenger has the incumbent with the higher vote total in the previous election lost their seat (0%).
In 2003 Susan Albright beat out Al Ciccone to win the second at-large seat in Ward 2. In 2001, Ciccone had fewer votes than Marcia Johnson. Ciccone is running this year for the ward seat in Ward 1. Albright is going for her ninth term. While Albright and Johnson traded the top spot in Ward 2 in their overlapping terms, Johnson was the top vote-getter in 2003.***
In 2007, challenger Greer Tan-Swiston beat one-term incumbent
Susan Leslie Burg in Ward 3. Burg had run second to Ted Hess-Mahan in 2005, just ahead of Tan Swiston. In the 2011 Ward 6 at-large race, Greg Schwartz beat another one-term incumbent, Charlie Shapiro, who finished second to Vicki Danberg in 2009. Danberg and Schwartz face challenger Alicia Bowman this year.
Jake Auchincloss won his Ward 2 seat in 2015, displacing long-time incumbent Johnson. In 2013, Susan Albright was the high vote getter. Last cycle, Andreae Downs beat long-time incumbent Brian Yates in Ward 5. Yates, who died earlier this year, was second to Deb Crossley in 2015. Before 2017, Yates had faced four challengers; the five contested races are more than any other at-large incumbent from 2003. Johnson had faced two prior challengers before 2015.
Albright and Auchincloss face Jennifer Bentley and Tarik Lucas this year. Crossley and Downs face former Alderman/Councilor and one-time mayoral candidate Paul Coletti.
The additional contested at-large race is Ward 3 where Jim Cote and Andrea Kelley face a challenge from Pam Wright.
If history holds, it’s a tough row to hoe for 2019 challengers Bentley, Bowman, Coletti, Lukas, and Wright. And, if history is a guide, the top vote-getters in each at-large race in 2017 are probably safe — Albright in Ward 2, Crossley in Ward 5, and Danberg in Ward 6. In 2017, Kelley had 8797 votes to Cote’s 8788, so it’s tough to give her the historical benefit.
It’s an interesting mix. Four usurpers — Albright, Auchincloss, Downs, and Schwartz — and two first-termers — Downs and Kelley — defending their seats. And, among the challengers, a previous multi-term Councilor/Alderman in Coletti.
Who among the challengers do you think has the best shot? Are Albright, Crossley, and Danberg safe?
* It previously happened in 2015.
** Since 2003, in races with one incumbent and two or more challengers, no incumbent has lost their seat.
*** No challenger has gotten more votes than both incumbents, though Crossley won more votes than Yates in 2009, when she and Bill Brandel vied for the seat opened when Coletti ran for mayor.